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Monday, June 15, 2009

S P E C I A L    E D I T I O N

Lab Responds to Declaration of H1N1 Virus Pandemic by World Health Organization

The H1N1 virus, previously called the swine flu, continues to spread, now affecting 74 countries. As a result, the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a pandemic. This does not mean the flu virus has become more dangerous, just that it has spread more widely. H1N1 has been judged to be of moderate severity. National levels of severe illness from the virus appear similar to levels seen during local seasonal influenza periods, and most people recover from the infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care. In addition, hospitals and health care systems in most countries have been able to cope with the numbers of people seeking care.

As the northern hemisphere flu season winds down, officials will monitor virus characteristics in the southern hemisphere’s flu season. U.S. vaccine manufacturers have prepared prototype vaccines, and hope to have a vaccine available later this year. In the meantime, Berkeley Lab continues to prepare for the impact of widespread flu through its business continuity planning process.

In addition to continuing to practice good health hygiene, employees must contact Health Services (x6266 or e-mail) if they or an immediate family member experience flu-like illness, or return to work after illness or from travel in an affected country. Supervisors who send staff home for flu-like illness must also contact Health Services.

Employees are encouraged to take these everyday steps to protect your health:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you get sick with influenza, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. If you develop a fever, contact your personal health care provider.

• Avoid nonessential travel to areas with high rates of transmission. Go here to view current travel recommendations.

Visit the Center for Disease Control website for more information, or here for a local impact view update from the Alameda County Health Officer.